Reflections on SXSW ’09


This was my first year attending SXSW and it was a great experience.  Here are some of the things I noticed:

  • Live blogging is dying.  In most sessions, the audience and sometimes the panelists were engaging via some flavor of Twitter client.  At conferences in the past, there might be a main event blog and attendees would put up quick posts after each session.  Now we see that different tools are better suited for different communication cadences (and purposes).  If you're still into liveblogging, Louis Gray explains How to Blog Live Events and Publish With Lightning Speed
  • Corporate field trips.  One client-side attendee told me that he had run into plenty of familiar agency and vendor folk, but none of the client-side people like himself.  From what I gather, they were certainly around but didn't make a big deal about it – perhaps because many of the client-side companies were there to learn and absorb.  And besides individuals like Scott Monty and Chris Barger, there were small teams from Pepsi, Wal-Mart, Panasonic on site to learn and experience things first hand.  Very similar premise to the P&G Digital Night held right before SXSW kicked off.
  • Weighted value of sources.  Your incoming expectations will temper what you get out of the different interaction formats.  I think you'll need to mix panels, hallway conversations, lounges, meals, and parties to get a full experience – and recognize that they will all add value to your time spent, even if you're not the most social butterfly or note taker. 
  • Papa Smurf can get kind of crazy

Everyone's starting to return home and reflections are sinking in.  More reflections:'

Jackie Huba, 18 cool things at SXSW
Rachel Happe, SXSW '09 retrospective
Alora Chistiakoff, Highlights from SXSW 2009
Mack Collier, SXSW Recap – The Sessions
– Jeff Beckham, SXSW Scorecard
Aaron Strout, Overheard: I Survived SXSW '09 and Lived To Talk About It
– Marc Berry, 2,584 words on SXSW Interactive 2009
– Mike Stopford, SXSW Interactive 2009 – Reflections
Kyle Flaherty, SXSWi Decompress Part I:  My Mistakes
Kaitlyn Wilkins, The One Where I Wrap Up SXSW

Join the Conversation


  1. I don’t necessarily think live blogging is the answer, but live tweeting is out of control. Take the time to take notes, summarize your thoughts and provide us the highlights. In fact, that’s a lot of what I wrote about tonight when I suggested how you could take notes and post quickly.

    How to Blog Live Events and Publish With Lightning Speed

    Don’t blame the tools. Blame the people. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Actually, for me it was less of a corporate field trip and more like remaining engaged with the social media community. I was slated to be on two panels but had to leave early. This was my second year at SXSW, and it’s such an essential event to attend to stay current with trends and to make connections with really interesting people.

    Highly recommended.

  3. I think the Tweeting was a bit out of control in general (almost as much as the TALKING about Tweeting). It was proving to have some real scaling problems, particularly in panels with large crowds.

    The idea of having people submit questions that way is great, but with a room full of people sitting on a device of some kind, the flood of questions coming at the panel that way was not manageable in a single of the sessions I attended. (Stowe Boyd just wrote about this problem, too.)

    What was making it even more tedious was that whenever someone would go to the mic to ask a question, they would introduce themselves with their name, their site AND their Twitter ID. It made the verbal open credits for comments and questions a little much to sit through, particularly given that there were almost always more questions than there was time to answer them.

    As much as I do really prefer Twitter to other social networks, the high volume usage like that was a bit unruly; and having so many people drinking the Twitter KoolAid in general was definitely causing some Twitter OD.

  4. i found that the tweeting was voracious. i intentionally did not twitter and took notes instead at each of the important panels. i chose to absorb the information rather than react to it in real time. now some of the tweeters are asking for my notes.

  5. Agreed; played out to one extreme, this ends in the question of who’s actually “on stage.” Separating signal vs. noise gets difficult if not impossible at the volumes we witnessed – the need for filters is clear. A simple step is a more detailed hashtag; e.g. #sxswpanel instead of #sxsw – but beyond that, I wonder if first come, first served at the mics are best of if we’d be better served by a talk-show moderated call-in model.

  6. Thanks for the link Peter – it was great to catch up with you. Interestingly I found my Twittering really dropped off during the event. I went to very few panels because I was catching up with so many interesting people and it seemed that I never stayed in one place long enough to recharge my battery. With all the heavy network usage my iPhone battery got sucked dry very quickly so…I used it very sparingly.

    Great event though – when you get that many people together in one place it really increases the face to face serendipity that is possible.

  7. From the perspective of someone who didn’t go, I’ll let you guys know the Tweets were sort of worthless. I ignored anything tagged #sxsw after awhile, it was all noise and no signal. Louis Gray’s blog posts were a breath of fresh air and useful. This was useful too Peter, thanks.

  8. Or there are actual posts about some of the sessions each day and the recap looks more like a list of things to think about ๐Ÿ™‚ Good seeing you, Peter. The only session I tweeted was the Dell Panel.

  9. Peter,

    Great point in the comments about filtered hashtag search and moderated questions (instead of the rush to the mic).

    I really enjoyed your panel and it was great to meet you in person.

  10. Peter, I’ve attended SXSW numerous times, but not this year.

    IMHO, the fact that the three silos of creativity (interactive, music and film) are still not encouraged to interact more is a travesty. The traditional news and entertainment industries are going through a wrenching re-boot of their business models, and SXSW is one of the few opportunities for these related clusters to potentially discuss common issues. I’ve written more about my insights on this topic here

    My point: don’t see Interactive insights in isolation, see them as part of the bigger scenario that’s unfolding.

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Being: Peter Kim